A journey to the Grammys doesn’t always begin with a lot of cash and an entourage. Sometimes it begins simply with a huge talent, a lot of perseverance, and a dream.
Rajdulari (she doesn’t use her last name professionally) is a lady who has made it her mission to dream big. Since the release of her debut solo CD "Honeywine", Raj knows it’s her best shot at making that Grammy dream a reality.
Life hasn’t always been a smooth ride. “Raj” as her friends call her, was born in Baltimore, raised by a single mom and spent much of her childhood in Michigan. Although her name is a Hindi word meaning “daughter of a king,” there wasn’t always much money when she was growing up, but there was plenty of music. “My mom always listened to jazz when I was younger.”
“I left home at 17 and worked for ten years before going back to school at age 26.” She was accepted at the very prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston. On Berklee: “I was really intimidated at first, thinking all these people sang better than I did, but after I went for a while I started to find my own voice. Being around all those musicians actually helped me to be more myself.”
Raj isn’t a tiny lady. She is all about curves, and she’s proud of her body. “Who I am is part and parcel of my music. It’s important for young women to see they can be whoever they are. I embrace my curves! Thank goodness mainstream media is finally starting to promote curvy women – look at Toccara Jones, Queen Latifah, Jill Scott.” Just like the singers who inspire her, Raj isn’t about easy labels. “I love Diane Reeves and Bobby McFerrin, Jill Scott, Chaka Khan. Those are some of the folks I listen to for inspiration.”
Raj has no aspirations to be a pop singer. She’s a jazz vocalist.
Raj recently moved to New York City, completely unfamiliar with the city and knowing only a few friends. It was a huge leap of faith. She knew however that if she answered the call to follow her dream, she would have an “enriched life.” She quickly found her way, and let her voice be heard. She now works in an office during the day, but loves to sing after hours. She’s been appearing a lot at a little club called Billie’s Black.
Her CD was a labor of love. Raj’s musician friends helped her record it, but it’s a polished effort. She wasn’t going to sit around and wait to be “discovered,” either. “I don’t need anybody to hand me anything. This music is my baby. I need to share it with people.”
If you listen to “Honeywine” you will quickly learn that Raj has an amazing voice, and she paints music with a broad palette. “When I decided to branch out, I knew I wanted to do fusion. Music is a language with a lot of colors.”
Raj wrote most of the songs on “Honeywine,” and she is justifiably proud of her accomplishment. Every song has particular meaning for her. “My favorite song on the album is “Purpose.” It really outlines my mission. It’s important for any dream that you CLAIM it. When I listen to “Purpose” it reminds me of who I am and what I want!”
“America” is a love song for America. What beauty we have here. There is even beauty in our differences. Despite all the problems in the country, we need each other. We need to celebrate each other.”
Why should someone buy Honeywine? “It’s not something you’ve heard before. I really want people to feel like I’m giving them jewels from my heart and to be as excited about the music as I am.”
The title of her album was a very deliberate choice for Raj.
“Honeywine is actually an Ethiopian wine, very sweet, almost like a desert wine. You take a sip and think, "ok that’s nice", but then you want more and more. I want people to listen to my songs like that, to hear them over and over until the message in the songs sneaks up on them, just like the honeywine.”
Rajdulari may not be an easy name to pronounce, but it’s worth the effort. Some Grammy presenter will have a fun time with it one day. Take a taste of "Honeywine" – you’ll want more and more, I predict.~BBB
For more info on Rajdulari Barnes visit: www.rajdulari.com